Saturday, April 27, 2019

Gold Record Surprises

John Simon, Truth, Lies & Hearsay: A Memoir of a Musical Life in and out of Rock and Roll (The Author, 2018), 87.

Over the years, the Grammy organization has presented me with a few frames containing records coated with certain precious metals, gold being the most common. When I actually put my first one, for [producing Simon & Garfunkel’s] “Bookends” on the turntable, I discovered that the label bearing the title of the album I worked on had been pasted on an Andy Williams Christmas Album.

[Often RIAA gold records did not in fact correspond to the actual LP displayed in the frame. Many of the stories about artists discovering their gold records are someone else’s concern youth-oriented musicians who are amused or affronted that the fraudulent artifact is by an older, less hip artist. See, for example, the following anecdote by the drummer for The Doors.]

John Densmore, Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors (Delta, 1991), 226-7.

A week later Julia and I were back in L.A., and the abortion seemed pretty much in the past. I was playing records when I noticed something odd about the gold album I had just received for Waiting for the Sun.

"Hey, this isn't our third album!"
"How can you tell?" Julia inquired.

"The number of songs on the label doesn't match up to the number of songs on the disk! Wait a minute...let me see...'Love Street' is about three minutes long, and there's no way it could fit into this tiny bandwidth! This song looks like it's under two minutes."

"Can you open it?" Julia asked. Her eyes widened.

"I'll have to break the glass. It's sealed." I grinned at the prospect of smashing the front glass.

Julia nodded her encouragement.

After getting a hammer from the kitchen, I took the gold record outside to the trash cans. I leaned the frame over one of the cans and tapped hard on the glass. It broke and I carefully pulled out the record, making sure there wasn't any broken glass stuck to it. I brought it back inside to the turntable.

"This thing is really flimsy! It isn't a real record...some kind of pressing...I wonder if it will play?" I put the needle down on the first cut, and through lots of audio crackling we could hear a large orchestra with someone reciting poetry.

"It's Rod McKuen! It's fucking Rod McKuen!"

"That's funny." Julia laughed. "Why do you think they did it?"

I laughed uproariously, yet at the same time I felt insulted. "I don't believe it. They're too cheap to spend five or six bucks on the real thing. So they just get an old $1.98 Thrifty Drug Store discount bin record and schlock it with fake gold, stick a new label on it and slam it into a frame! God damn."

Another myth shattered.